It’s been a finding since the beginning of the study of how people seek information that the first place people typically go is to ask other people for information.* We ask our parents and teachers growing up, and then later friends and colleagues. It’s obvious, right?
Well, what about networking? How is that different? It’s talking to people you don’t necessarily know already, and there’s an element of categorizing the person for retrieval later as an information source while making yourself available to them.
A few of us were talking about this at dinner at ASIST. Some thought it was kind of mercenary. Others of us thought that networking absolutely needs to be taught and that mentors should do it. Often grad students will just hang out with people they know from their school at conferences but that makes no sense at all when they have to get out on the job market fairly soon.
*of course web search might be first, now but other people are way up there.